I'm a fan of old guys kicking ass on film, especially when they do so with the opportunity to build their characters, something that happened in 'Red' but not 'The Expendables 2', for instance. One of my recent guilty pleasures was 2012's 'Bad Ass', which saw Danny Trejo play a character inspired by a viral internet video.
In that film and this 2014 straight to video sequel, Trejo is Frank Vega, a decorated Vietnam vet who struggles through life until he becomes famous for taking down a pair of skinheads on a city bus. Suddenly he's famous online because someone filmed the whole thing. Of course, that just means that there's a story coming his way and, sure enough, one soon shows up when his best friend is murdered and the cops don't seem to be taking it too seriously.
Of course, when one story works well, another has to follow in its wake, hence this film. Now Vega is running a boxing gym, training kids and enjoying life. One of them, Manny, is particularly promising, to the degree that he's going to turn pro at the weekend. Of course he's conveniently murdered before that happens.
Once again, the police aren't doing much to figure the case out, probably because they found drugs on his body so believe he's a dealer. It turns out that he was, but only short term to support his family until he turned pro. It merely served to leave the fight to Vega, who promptly tracks down the people behind him, kicks some ass and burns a quarter of a million dollars worth of product.
The title of the movie this time around is 'Bad Asses' not just 'Bad Ass', so we have a second bad ass joining the fray. With a sense of irony that we wait to be highlighted, it's the man who was too old for this shit back in 1987's 'Lethal Weapon', Danny Glover. He's Bernie Pope, who almost got to be the first black man in the NHL but blew out his knee and so ended up as the owner of the liquor store next to Vega's gym.
We need a stronger way to link the two than just a shared wall so in come three hoods to Bernie's liquor store to empty the register. Vega takes them down for him and Bernie returns the favour a few days later when the drug dealers decide to kill a drunken Vega in the street. Now they're a team and we're off and running.
Trejo and Glover work well together, though the humour isn't exactly fast paced and the action is edited away from far too often. Glover plays up the age thing a little too much, even if he doesn't resort to the obvious line. There's only so far he can go down the road of rickety and in pain without losing credibility when he kicks ass. Fortunately it's the other Danny who takes care of the majority of that business, as his pandering to age is mostly restricted to waddling a little too overtly.
I enjoyed 'Bad Asses', but it's my sort of guilty pleasure. I'm well aware of its flaws, of which there are many.
Most won't appreciate how slow it is for an action movie and jokes about how it moves at the speed of a zimmer frame are far too easy to conjure up. Vega is far too one minded in his pursuit of Manny's killer, whose identity is never in doubt, so there's neither suspense nor mystery. Even Vega's bad puns get to be a little much, even if Trejo doesn't deliver them as cheesily as he could. And those are the minor flaws.
Anyone who's seen even a few movies will recognise a host of little details which appear to be character moments but are really only there to set up something still to come. Again, suspense is rather tough to build when we know exactly what's going to happen. So Vega builds Manny's little sister Julie a secret door; I wonder what that could possibly be used for in a later scene when everything gets serious.
Even I had trouble with the romance angle set up between Trejo and Jacqueline Obradors, Manny's mother. It isn't just that she's 22 years younger than him in real life, it's that she looks young for her age and he's deliberately made up to look as old here as he ever has. This sort of thing didn't work in the golden age of Hollywood and it doesn't work now. And let's not get started on Danny Glover's lovelife in this movie.
Unfortunately, given this framework, Andrew Divoff isn't able to make his role as the villain of the piece work much. He's hampered by being someone who can't be arrested anyway, but still more by the fact that he plays Leandro Herrera with James Bond villain seriousness while the film around him is far happier to crack funny. He's a talented actor but it's the wrong approach for this film.
In the end, while I can always get a chuckle out of this sort of material, it doesn't really have much more of an audience. It's too transparent for more sophisticated viewers but too derivative for new ones. It's too sappy for a tough audience and too violent for a sappy one. It isn't sure if it wants to be an action flick, a buddy comedy, a Bond movie or a family drama.
I'll still tune in though for 'Bad Ass 3', which is currently in post-production with Trejo and Glover reprising their roles and Craig Moss returning yet again as writer and director.